18 December 2021
By Ellie Palmer
This month marks 100 years since the death of the great French composer, who was the brains behind many of our favourite pieces including Carnival of the Animals, 'Dance macabre', Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and many many more. We've picked out five must-watch live performances of his works below.
Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor, Op 22
Arthur Rubinstein with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by André Previn
Rubinstein was a great admirer of Saint-Saëns, so much so that he did play his Piano Concerto No 2 (which he also performs above) in the presence of the composer. Sadly we don't believe there is a video anywhere of that, but at least we can enjoy this stunning performance of the same piece alongside the London Symphony Orchestra and conductor André Previn.
The Swan – Carnival of the Animals
Clara Rockmore (1911-1998) was a Lithuanian violin prodigy, and also one of the greatest thereminists in history. A theremin is a musical instrument controlled without physical contact. It uses antennas and frequencies in order to pick up the player's hand movements, thus creating a sound.
You'll see in the video how remarkable Rockmore's theremin playing is. It's mesmerising!
Symphony No 3 in C minor, Op 78
Orchestre de Paris conducted by Paavo Järvi
There aren't many greater stages to perform on than at the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms.
Back in 2013, Orchestre de Paris and conductor Paavo Järvi majestically performed the composer's Symphony No3 Op 78. One commenter under the video says, "Most of Saint-Saëns's mature works are masterpieces, but I firmly believe that this is the best thing he ever wrote. It's masterfully scored, filled with memorable melodies, and its structure is brilliantly paced."
Summed up perfectly.
Carnival of the Animals
The Kanneh-Mason family are an absolute delight to watch, both as soloists and as ensembles. Aminata (violin), Braimah (violin), Mariatu (cello), Sheku (cello), Isata (piano), Jeneba (piano) and Konya (piano) performed Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals live from the BBC Proms in 2021.
Danse macabre (Dance of Death), Op 40
Danse macabre is one of the composer's most well-known pieces, and focuses on the idea that death is perhaps the one thing that unites us all.
Take special notice of the flautists here in the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France; they are exceptional!